White House's revamped Web site shows value of starting over

There is a good chance that your Web site is not great. Until January 20, perhaps the most important Web site in all of mankind, WhiteHouse.gov, was not great.

There is a good chance that your Web site is not great. Until January 20, perhaps the most important Web site in all of mankind, WhiteHouse.gov, was not great. Many suspected the site of the executive branch was substandard, but there was very little to which to compare it. The Clinton administration's Web presence was likely designed and coded by dinosaurs. But, once President Barack Obama took office and unveiled a new Web site, people flocked to their Tumblr and Twitter accounts to show before and after images of the POTUS' Web page. It had a prominently placed blog with an RSS feed and everything, they shouted in glee.

While it is safe to say President Obama deftly implemented social media and technologies better than any other presidential candidate in 2008, it's likely that John McCain – who used social networking and engaging campaigns – would have likewise done some demolition to the old WhiteHouse.gov. The new site comes with the promise of greater transparency, which is easier said than done. But that will come later; I'm still marveling at the rotating feature images and slideshow of presidents.

The point of this exercise is to reinforce again (and again) that Web sites can no longer keep the same infrastructure for half a decade (or eight years). And while you can create SWOT analyses for your own Web property, or compare it to the online presence of your competitors, sometimes it's best to start again.

The new White House site feels more like a destination. And while it's impossible to discount the enthusiasm for the new president, I expect it to be a much more used resource from citizens of every political party.

Hopefully, the marketing communications function at least partially owns the Web presence at your companies. If that is the case, seize the opportunity provided by this new site to make a case for a refreshing of your current Internet appearance. Don't just sign up for company Twitter accounts, Facebook groups, and blogs; think about how they could all integrate in one destination. Do your best to free up resources in your staff to devote more attention to making the Web site a constantly updated, information disseminating vehicle. And please implement a RSS feed if you haven't yet.

Evidenced by the number of people who watched the inauguration from their computers, there is no doubt that we live much of our lives online. The next generation of citizens will learn about their government from WhiteHouse.gov and the Web sites linking to the content originating there. These same consumers are learning more about a brand online than at brick and mortar locations. Make sure you're ready for them.

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